The Curtains Go Up on the Opening Act in the new "Theatre of Dreams" - LIVESTRONG Sporting Park
More hardcore analysis to come later - for some reason, I just felt like taking an analogy and running with it. Hope you enjoy.
The stage was set beautifully - a perfect green carpet surrounded by a beautiful stadium packed with fans. The special effects budget was not spared as pyrotechnics filled the sky in the prelude to the first act. After some touching exposition to help paint the backstory, a touching story of a club trying to find a place to call home, the real action finally began and the players took to the field to provide the performance which would be remembered by the entire audience as "the first game ever in Livestrong Sporting Park".
You could tell from the get-go that the home players were getting a bit of stage fright. Well, not stage "fright" per-se, but there were definitely some nerves on display. It seemed that they were having a hard time holding back at times; having the energy of the crowd finally on their side was a lot like running a marathon with a long downhill - you really want to just let yourself go and speed to the bottom, but you know if you do so you'll regret it when you get there.
As things settled down, you could really see a trend going. The boys in the light blue were much more interested in attacking and pressing, committing men forward when given the opportunity and going hard for that first, elusive goal that would undoubtedly open the flood gates for more. The red team was comfortable to defend, turnover bad passes or poor first touches and then try to score with a quick break on a counterattack.
It was not too long before jubilation erupted in the audience (this is the type of performance where the audience is involved, after all). The ball had found its way into the back of the red team's net, expertly placed there by the character "8" played by a young and promising talent named Graham Zusi. It was not meant to be, however, as the man in the bright yellow shirt held up his flag to signal that the particular scene was not performed correctly - there had been a player offsides.
Denied their breakthrough, the blue team continued to press for the remainder of Act 1. At times it almost seemed they weren't reading from the same script, but that's almost to be expected. Including this performance, in 11 performances they had used 10 different casts. Sometimes a performer was out-of-town, sometimes they were injured. Granted, performers at this level should be able to manage with a rotating cast like this, but it is bound to affect anybody when things are changing so often. Add on the pressure of the significance of this particular performance and things get a bit disjointed.
The second act began much like the first, a bit more nerves and the same general tactics. Unfortunately, it really wasn't very notable - that is, until disaster struck. The goalkeeper of the team in blue was forced to use his hands outside of the box and was removed from the stage - the team would have to continue on with one less performer. Still, despite the numerical disadvantage, the team continued to press and create some somewhat meaningful attacks. The audience was still given hope that this story could yet have a happy ending.
It was then that the performance took a rather unfortunate turn, one that would be the defining moment of the entire performance (for many reasons), and more unfortunately the center of the incident was the man playing the part of "referee", Michael Kennedy, even though the best scripts in these types of performances are ones in which the audience doesn't notice that role at all. The incident in question was one where the blue player Omar Bravo had put himself in a good position to score, only to be taken out of the play by a man named Bratislav Ristic. The rules would seem to indicate that such an act would result in a Penalty Kick, but none was given - much to the dismay of most everyone in attendance.
Upon checking the reviews across the internet, it would seem that most critics agreed that a penalty should have been given. If it had been given then the blue team would most definitely have scored a goal and likely have won the game. There's even a good chance that the numerical disadvantage would be nullified as Ristic would have probably been required to leave the stage as well.
What was worse is that the incident had caused Bravo a considerable amount of pain. While the performance was halted to tend to the injured Mexican, some of the audience took it upon themselves to break the 4th wall and started throwing their refreshments on the stage, something that most regular attendees consider a disgusting display and extremely without class.
It was unfortunately these two incidents that ended up being the main take-away from the performance. A performance on which so much was expected and so much hope was pinned upon. The night that will always be the inaugural performance at such a beautiful venue will be tainted by the questionable actions (or, rather, inaction) of what should have been a minor character in the story as well as the distasteful actions of the attending audience.
It is unfortunate that this is the case, but we can never go back and rewrite that script to make it more palatable. All we can do is move on and hope for a better, more fitting story to be performed in a venue that so very much deserves the very best. If such performances should come, given time most of us will forget about the disappointments felt on what still was a very special day.
Ultimately, I do believe that we all will be treated to some of the best performances we've ever witnessed in that wonderful theater. I just hope that we don't have to wait too long for them.